(I am not going to reveal this brewer's name or the country he lives in. Privately I do follow him on Facebook and I have seen the different beers that he has brewed (under his 'label') as well as the various craft brewery events he has attended and has been ask to speak at, so I know that yes, he was a qualified person to interview. The image on this page is from his very long day of brewing a few weeks ago. )
1 - You describe yourself as a 'Nomad Brewer' - what exactly is that?
Nomad, Contract, or Gypsy Brewer as it’s being used interchangeably by various sources, is a term that describes a brewer or a brewery that doesn’t have it’s own equipment and facilities for making beer, renting out or contracting other breweries to do it for them.
Usually this type of brewing is carried out in the following way. The nomad brewer comes with their own recipe (which is typically pilot-brewed on a small scale or even homebrew equipment) to a commercial brewery, and hires them to brew a single batch of said recipe, and then sell the entire batch to the contract brewer. The beer will usually be labelled under the nomad brewery’s brand, and sold to distributors and pubs as their own product.
There are several pros and cons to this concept, but it’s definitely a viable one, since there’s an entire plethora of very successful craft beer brands that started out or still are nomad breweries. Most notable examples include Mikkeller, Evil Twin, and Omnipollo just to name a few.
The main advantage of being a nomad brewer is that you can take considerable risks in terms of beer flavour, style, branding and marketing, without having to invest a lot of money into an actual brewery. On the other hand, commercial breweries get to experiment with their equipment and ingredients, seeing what they are capable of, and have a guaranteed income by selling an entire tank of beer right away. A win-win for everyone involved.
2 - What was it that piqued your interest in brewing beer?
I come from a country with rich winemaking traditions, but I always loved beer. Unfortunately, our local beer market was and still is rather scarce, especially when it comes to quality beer. Throughout my travels I’ve always tasted local beers, and was surprised by the diversity of flavours and aromas this beverage comes with. But unfortunately, I hadn’t the ability to get even a small fraction of this diversity back home. It even got to the point where I simply stopped drinking beer while being in my homeland, preferring it to local wine, which I must say is pretty darn good. But the occasional travels and beer tastings abroad were nagging at me, so one day I simply asked myself “Is it that hard to brew your own beer?”
As it turned out, it isn’t. Sure, it’s a rather complicated process if you dig deep enough, but on the surface and for a start, just anyone can brew a beer at home if they have a large enough pot, the right ingredients, and a vessel to ferment the beer in. Nothing out of ordinary for someone coming from a country where every other dude is making wine at home.
So I got all the ingredients I could find, brewed my first batch of beer, fermented, bottled it, and waited long enough to have it matured. And it turned out to be one of the best beers I’ve had in my life to that point! The recipe was rather simple and relied heavily on Cascade hops, but it was a really tasty and refreshing Pale Ale that was more flavourful than any of the beers sold locally. This made me brew on a regular basis, sharing my beer with friends and experimenting with recipes.
Word got around very quickly, and soon enough there was a queue of people wanting to get some of my beers. Seeing this, it became obvious that there’s a demand for quality, flavourful beer that is different from the common bland stuff sold in stores. And from there I got serious and started my own beer brand, which is now a nomad brewery working across three countries.
3 - How would you say the 'craft beer' industry differs in Eastern Europe as opposed to Canada or the USA?
I’d say it lags a lot, 20-30 years compared to the USA, and maybe 15 years if we consider Canada. The craft beer movement has a very well defined geographic tendency of moving from West to East. It started out in the USA and the UK almost simultaneously, and spread out to the East, with wealthier countries picking up the trend quicker than those lagging in economic development. Obviously, Eastern Europe being the less fortunate part of the continent in terms of wealth was rather late to the party. There are some countries which have their first craft breweries opening only now, so that’s quite telling of the situation in general.
Yet, at the same time, craft brewers in Eastern Europe have a certain advantage that allows them to brew really good beers. While the pioneers of the craft beer in the USA had to experiment through trial and error to come up with all those amazing beers we all know and love today, Eastern European brewers can simply learn from the experience of their Western peers and avoid making a lot of mistakes that might hinder their progress. To shamelessly quote myself “If you want to brew some wacky, experimental beer – just browse the online forums, there will be at least 20 home and commercial brewers from USA, Canada, UK or Australia who have already done it”.
Are you a homebrewer or a small craft brewery that would be interested in being interviewed for our 'Beaver Tales'? If so contact me BarleyBeaver@gmail.com and place 'Beaver Tales Interview' in the subject line, and we can make arrangements to feature you and/or your brewery in one of our upcoming posts.